My second birth

Our second baby was was born early on a Monday morning, sometime after 2:00 a.m. We’re not exactly sure of the time because she came at home and looking at the clock was low down on the priority list. But I did happen to notice that the placenta was delivered at 2:25.

I had “false” or prodromal labor nearly every day for an entire week before she was born. When I had contractions they would usually last for several hours and stop after I ate something. Five days before she was born I was checked and declared to be 3 cm dilated and moderately effaced. The day before her birth I thought we were getting very close, and I should have trusted my instinct. I had an abrupt mood change and could only handle the contractions if I was in certain positions: leaning forward, standing, on my hands and knees. Sitting down or laying down were intolerable. I had a slight urge to push with a few of the contractions. I told Serge I thought it felt like transition.

I second guessed myself because I thought transition was supposed to be harder- the contractions just didn’t hurt enough. And I didn’t think it would be possible for my labor to stall in transition. So when the 3 hours of contractions every 5 minutes slowed down and then stopped I told myself that maybe this was still early labor. Maybe I was going to be in labor every day for another week before our baby was born. Maybe I was going to be pregnant forever.

Here’s a picture of me taken that Sunday, the day before our unplanned homebirth:I was reluctant to go to the hospital because I was GBS positive and I had declined the antibiotics. I wanted my water to break as late as possible and wanted as few interventions as possible. In hindsight I can see that I had some significant anxiety about the hospital and how I would be treated there.

After that last round of more intense labor Sunday afternoon I was tired and grumpy and just wanted to take a nap, eat a good meal, and wallow in a little self pity. I did all three and before going to bed we discussed the plan for the upcoming day. Serge had a final exam first thing in the morning. Hopefully the baby wouldn’t be born during his final. We agreed that if I woke up with contractions I would eat something and see if they went away. I wanted Serge to get as much sleep as he could.

Sure enough, I woke up around 1 a.m. with a really decent contraction. I got out of bed quietly and went right downstairs to eat. After a bowl of ceral with milk and a few cups of strawberries I went to the bathroom and then I woke up my sister. I asked her to put on a movie. So far I had only had two contractions, but they had really surprised me with how intense they were. I felt a little in awe of how powerful and strong they were. At 1:31 I wrote a note in my journal and decided I should time the next few contractions while I tried to relax:

1:34 a.m., 20 seconds; 1:42 a.m., 56 seconds; 1:49 a.m., 20 seconds; 1:51 a.m., 43
seconds; 1:53 a.m., 34 seconds; 1:55 a.m., 55 seconds. (So that was 8 min apart, then 7, then 2 min apart, 2 min apart, 2 min apart!)

With that last contraction I realized that this had to be the real deal, and what was I doing writing down how far apart they were when we had to get to the hospital pronto!!!  So I gave orders to wake up Serge and grab the bags and fetch the babysitter for our oldest child, who was asleep upstairs.

While my sister woke up Serge I made phone calls. Soon we got a call back from the midwife. I told her we were coming in and she said she’d have a nurse check me when we got to the hospital. “A nurse?” I said, “When are you going to be there?” She said it would take her a little over a half hour and I told her I thought she had better hurry because the baby was going to be coming soon. When I announced to our doula (who was also our next door neighbor) that this time it was for real she asked how I was feeling and I said: “Great when I’m not having a contraction”.

Then there was a bit of a hustle and bustle as I got changed into a bathrobe and we got things squared away to leave. I was standing at the bottom of the stairs when our doula came in and I’d just started into a contraction. I looked at her and focused on her face and on feeling support and encouragement from her. She was breathing with me and it was very nice to have her there.

I was walking through our kitchen on my way to our car when I had a powerful contraction with quite the urge to push, and my water broke (slight trickle). I reached my hand down and I could feel the baby’s head only an inch or two away from crowning. So I announced to Serge that we could either have the baby in the car, or at home, and that I was not getting in the car.

I walked into the living room and knelt down in front of the couch, and the next several contractions (and birth) were done with me kneeling over our couch (sort of a modified hands and knees position- it just felt best at the time).

Our doula said “call an ambulance” and Serge and I in unison said “No. DON’T make any phone calls”. **(Note: I do not recommend this or defend it, I’m just telling you what happened.) I said that my sister had better have the camera and be filming, told our doula to put some towels in the drier, and asked Serge to try and support the perineum and apply counter pressure.

The head crowned and during those few contractions I had a little debate about pushing: I knew that if I could avoid pushing during the contraction that we could ease the head out more slowly and avoid a tear. On the other hand, I sure felt like I wanted to push, and what were a few stitches compared to having the baby out?

During the contraction when the baby was born I said “I need to push!” and suddenly went to a more upright position. Serge said “the baby!” and he and our doula both helped to ease the baby to the floor. The baby came out really quickly, from the head crowning to being delivered to her waist occurred in about 2 seconds. She was as pink as could be and crying before her legs were delivered.I’ve seen a couple dozen births in birthing videos, and (at the time of this writing) a half dozen births in real life, and I have never seen a baby born as pink and vocal as our little baby was.

I turned around and sat down, then I picked up our little one and Serge laid some towels over her so she wouldn’t get cold. She was super pink and breathing really well. As soon as she was covered and next to me she stopped crying.Since the baby was looking great and I felt so good I just wanted to stay put until the placenta came on it’s own. Serge asked if I wanted anything, and I said: “Yes! A smoothy!” I was SO hungry! I ate a smoothy and two bowls of soup. Our midwife called and asked if we were coming, we said we’d be on our way soon but we’d already had the baby. About 10 minutes after the delivery our baby started opening her mouth and rooting. I helped her out and she latched right on and started to nurse.

The placenta flopped out on it’s own about 10 minutes after the birth. Our doula said I gave a little grunt and looked like I pushed just before it came out, but I don’t remember feeling anything. We caught it in one of our soup pots.  Serge and my sister linked arms underneath me to carry me to the car. I held the baby, our doula held the soup pot with the placenta, and another neighbor opened doors as our funny-looking procession made it’s way out to the car.

I did have a tear along where I had torn with my first. But it was superficial and less severe than the second degree tear I had with my first delivery. The midwife said that it was almost all in the skin and only needed a couple stitches in the muscle tissue. Our baby was detached from her placenta while I was stitched up, and the nurses commented that she looked a little shaky and they wondered if her blood sugar was low. At the same time our midwife told me that I was bleeding a little more than she liked and she wanted to give me a shot of pitocin if that was okay with me. I asked if I could hold our baby and try nursing first and she said sure. Our little one latched on well and nursed for a whole 45 minutes. That took care of the bleeding for me and any blood sugar issue for her. Hurray for nursing!

A few days after she was born I was watching the video of her delivery and realized that she was probably delievered posterior. I say probably because as the head is crowning the view wobbles over to our book case and a second later when it’s back she is delivered past her shoulders. If she were delivered anterior then she would have had to turn nearly 180 degrees as soon as her shoulders were delivered, which is possible but I think highly unlikely. The posterior position also explains the bizarre labor pattern, and our second baby also had a case of torticolis: the muscles on one side of her neck were less developed from her favoring a certain position in the womb. So perhaps she really was somehow stuck in a posterior presentation during that week before her delivery?See how skinny and smaller the left side of her neck looks compared to her right side when she was 4 days old? The pediatrician said she might need physical therapy, but by the two week appointment he wasn’t sure which side had been affected; it corrected itself quickly.

We stayed at the hospital for 48 hours after the birth to monitor the baby in case of GBS. The pediatrician had recommended that our baby be given antibiotics by IV but I requested that she be given IM shots instead. He agreed and she received two doses of Ampicillin and Gentamicin during our stay. Blood had been drawn for a culture and when it was still negative 40+ hours after the birth we were clear to return home.

I enjoyed our hospital stay, mostly because the food was wonderful and they brought me second and third helpings of whatever I requested. I thought the nurses were great but I had the sense that our pediatrician was a little perturbed with my attitude (I don’t think he was very comfortable with me declining the antibiotics routinely given to women who test positive for Group B Strep). Since this experience I’ve made a point to ask all the pediatricians I can about their opinions on how a GBS+ mom and newborn should be treated if the mom declines antibiotics or just doesn’t have time to get the antibiotics during labor. I’ve found that opinions vary WIDELY.

Back to our second birth….

In telling our birth story the thing that everyone can’t believe is the location. It was kind of  nice to have her at home. It definitely added a bit of additional excitement to the whole experience. And I loved the fact that I could eat so much immediately after the birth. But for me the most important parts of the birth were the support I had and how calm and peaceful I felt during the whole experience. And that could have been just the same at the hospital.

I had the most incredible feeling of joy after she was born. Not more than a few minutes after the birth I thought to myself “I can’t wait to do that again!” and I started wondering if I could convince Serge to try to get pregnant in three months so we could have another baby in the Spring of the following year. When I asked him what he thought about another baby in a year he told me I was completely crazy, and 4 weeks later when I was a sleep deprived post-partum wreck I thought that idea was crazy too.

But that gives you an idea of just how great the birth experience of our second child was. If I could choose a day to repeat over and over again like in the movie “Groundhog Day”, it would be her birth. Of course labor was intense and painful, but the physical sensations had a purpose and the powerful instinct was awesome and amazing to experience. I think part of the reason that I felt her birth was so wonderful was that I was so well rested. I had eaten a good meal and slept for 4 hours before I woke up for that last round of approximately 15 contractions before she was born. (Our sweet second daughter at 7 weeks)

So with my second labor and delivery being one of the highlights of my life, I was definitely looking forward to experiencing birth again. I thought my body was made to have babies and had such grand plans for the next birth. Sometimes when you get a little too puffed up life teaches you a lesson, and my third pregnancy was quite the learning experience.